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Schneider Electric to close down local operations

BY HEATHER COX - hcox@chronicle-tribune.com

PERU-- After attempts made by Miami County and the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAMAW) to persuade Schneider Electric to stay in Peru, it looks like the company is still intending to shut down operations locally and move elsewhere.

Though they haven't yet heard it directly from Schneider Electric, Jim Tidd, executive director of the Miami County Economic Authority (MCEDA), said they’ve been informed by the union representing the employees of the company that Schneider Electric has made the decision to move on.

Tidd said the company has intentions of moving operations to various locations such as South Carolina, Texas and Mexico and cease operations in Peru as early as December of this year. He said this shutdown would affect more than 300 employees.

As far as he can tell, Tidd said he believes the decision to be a financial move and that the company has invested in upscale facilities in other places, where they can incorporate what they had been doing in Peru.

When they first received word of the potential shutdown, Tidd said MCEDA started working with the city and the county to look at what they could do to change the company’s mind and keep the operations running. He said the company has been in the community since the early 1900’s, making them a substantial employer for the county.

Tidd said they also involved the State of Indiana to see if there was anything that could be done on the state level.

He said they put a package together from the city and the county that would reimburse the company for a percentage of local income taxes paid by the employees over a period of time to help reduce costs. Additionally, they talked about tax relief assistance for new investments made by the company in Peru.

The Kokomo Tribune reported that Tony Wickersham, grand lodge representative of IAMAW said the union suggested different ways the company could save money through wages and benefits.

Those incentives along with offerings made by the union still weren’t enough, Tidd said.

“That coupled with the ... cost saving measures offered by the union apparently wasn't enough for corporate level to change their mind. And from what we understand … they are going to go ahead and continue to move on with the closure,” he said.

The Tribune also reported Wickersham stated that it was an unfortunate loss for the community.

The next action step for the city and county would be to try to do something to help the employees find employment elsewhere, Tidd said. They will have to figure out how many of the workers are eligible for retirement or will retire once the Peru operations cease, he added.

“As we understand it, right now there are negotiations that are happening between the union, and Schneider Electric corporate on things for severance packages for workers, and when are operations going to cease,” he said.

Until they know for certain when operations will cease and what types of severance packages employees will receive, Tidd said they will hold off on things like job fairs and figuring out what the property will be used for moving forward.

He said they are not aware of any plans Schneider Electric has for the building it will leave behind.